WASHINGTON — President Biden on Wednesday marked the second anniversary of George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer by signing an executive order aimed at reforming policing at the federal level.
But the event was overshadowed by yet another act of violence — a shooting at a Texas elementary school that left at least 21 people dead — 19 children and two teachers.
“I’m sick and tired of it,” Biden said of the rampant gun violence, announcing he’ll travel to the Uvalde, Texas, campus in the coming days. “We must ask, when in God’s name will we do what needs to be done?”
Addressing an East Room audience that included relatives of those killed at the hands of police officers Biden stated that the occasion was being held “for the same purpose — to come together and say ‘enough.’”
The order, which Biden acknowledged is no substitute for more far-reaching reforms that only Congress can enact, directs all federal agencies to revise their use-of-force policies, creates a national registry of officers fired for misconduct and provides grants to incentivize state and local police departments to strengthen restrictions on chokeholds and no-knock warrants.
“It’s a measure of what we can do together to heal the very soul of this nation, to address the profound fear and trauma and exhaustion that particularly Black Americans have experienced for generations,” Biden said, recalling the national wave of protests after Floyd’s murder. “The message is clear: Enough! Just enough!”
The order, signed by Biden as Floyd’s relatives, civil rights leaders, law enforcement officials and Democratic lawmakers looked on, also restricts the future transfer of most military equipment to law enforcement agencies.
The White House and the Justice Department have been at work on the order since a more sweeping police reform effort ran aground in the evenly divided Senate last year.
The attendance at Wednesday’s East Room ceremony of both civil rights and law enforcement leaders underscored Biden’s determination to adopt a centrist approach to an issue that sparks intense emotions on each side.
Propelled to the presidency two years ago by Black voters, many outraged by Floyd’s murder that summer, Biden has been cognizant of the political damage incurred by Democrats over calls to “defund the police,” which gave Republicans a potent line of attack.